The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Ted Miller, 202.973.3032

President Obama Reverses Bush-Backed Attack on Family Planning

In repealing the global gag rule, President Obama restores access to primary health services for women and families in developing nations


Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, hailed President Barack Obama for taking swift and decisive action on behalf of women around the world by repealing the global gag rule.

"President Obama's action today reinforces why elections matter and how new leadership can end divisive policies that harm women," Keenan said. "Reversing this Bush-era policy means that the world's poorest women may now have access to vital health services, from prenatal care to contraception. The president's action today reflects the public's call for a focus on commonsense, common-ground solutions that make a difference in the lives of women and their families."

The global gag rule, which former President George W. Bush imposed on his first day in office, prohibited the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from granting family-planning funds to any overseas health center unless it agreed not to use its own, private, non-U.S. funds for abortion services or counseling. Bush imposed this rule even though federal law already prohibits the use of U.S. tax dollars for abortion services overseas.

The global gag rule has had devastating effects on family-planning services. As a consequence of the policy, overseas groups have closed health centers, cut staff, and raised fees. Thousands of women and families in need of public-health services have been turned away from under funded clinics.

Keenan said President Obama's strong action on behalf of women would incur criticism from anti-choice pressure groups that are hostile to birth control.

"We fully expect anti-choice politicians to distort the facts and make this about abortion, when it's not," Keenan said. "It's unconscionable that the same people who oppose legal abortion also want to block the world's poorest women from accessing birth control and other services that reduce the need for abortion in the first place."

For more information regarding these issues, including examples of how the global gag rule has cut off women's access to birth control, please visit

For over 50 years, Reproductive Freedom for All (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America) has fought to protect and advance reproductive freedom at the federal and state levels—including access to abortion care, birth control, pregnancy and post-partum care, and paid family leave—for everybody. Reproductive Freedom for All is powered by its more than 4 million members from every state and congressional district in the country, representing the 8 in 10 Americans who support legal abortion.